Becoming Visible: Setting Up the LGBT Archive Exhibition
Whose idea the exhibition was and quite when it was all started seems to be lost in the mists of time, but in truth it was probably many peoples' idea to record our story. The thing that seems to have made it possible was the setting up of the LGBT Archive Project called OurStory Scotland, suggested by Jaime Valentine at a meeting of Diverse Artists at the end of 2001.
The first meeting of the archive group was on 13 August 2002, chaired by Jaime. On 2 October 2002 a steering committee was set up, including Jaime Valentine, Jim Campbell and Eddy Steel. It was decided to call the archive project OurStory Scotland, and that an exhibition would open on 4 November 2002. While Jaime was doing research into what LGBT archives existed at the moment, Jim started working on ideas for the exhibition to be called 'Becoming Visible' after an exhibition which he had seen while working in New York, 1993.
At that point serendipity took over and a group who could take on board the setting up of an exhibition emerged under Jim's guidance, while Jaime was in Japan.
Bill McConnachie had been involved in the early days of SMG Scotland and had been very active in promoting the Paisley group. He was the person who had printed on his Adana press the tickets for discos, membership of SMG and headed note paper in the 70s, most of which he had kept. It was a happy accident that he is shown in a photograph (from Gay News) with his arm round a youthful Jim Campbell on the steps of the Gay Centre in Sauchiehall St. when it was opened in 1977. In the early 70s Bill had got from Tyneside CHE (Campaign for Homosexual Equality) a copy of the cassette tape/slide presentation on Homosexuality which they had made, and this and the letters about it can be seen. Bill maintains that he just came along to give some things to the archive, but Jim soon roped him in as an active member, as can be seen in the photos.
Donald Gray is in the back row at the opening of the Gay Centre in 1977 and his many memories are immortalised in his poems on display. Both he and Bill found the badges that are on show. Listening to Donald and Bill reminiscing was pretty inspirational for the rest of the us.
Lurking in the background at the time of the taking of the photos of the opening, or was it the closing in 1982, of the Gay Centre was Ian Strang, far too closeted to show his face in a photo. None the less, with Jim and Eddie Steele, he sold coffee and incinerated hamburgers to the punters who visited the centre. When he got involved with Becoming Visible in October last year, fortune had it that he had just got an A3 printer for photographs and the results of this can be seen in some of the colourful frames displayed. Inspired by Ian Passmore's tales he put together a poignant piece about a lost partner as well as finishing off the installation of the exhibition lights. He photographed all the exhibits and created a website for them.
Aileen Graham with her skills as an established artist produced several frames of her own, but at times when we were surrounded by papers to put in a large empty frame, she was always happy to suggest ways of laying them out that showed things to the best advantage.
Jim Campbell insists that it was all teamwork. He prepared the timeline of gay events from 1270 till today, obtained the money to pay for mounting equipment, arranged the loan of frames from Diverse Artists, found back issues of periodicals and kept up our enthusiasm when it seemed things would never be ready on time. A true facilitator, as well as a painter and sculptor in his own right, his skills in organisation can also be seen in the Holocaust Memorial Exhibition, and were evident at the performance on that memorial day.
Just a few days before the opening date it was time to start putting the frames on the wall. This presented a bit of a problem because the three of the walls of the Jackie Forster room were plaster on cement, but Andy came to our assistance and showed us how to put up the big frames. Everyone put material onto backing boards, Aileen showed us how to put the frames together securely, Jim organised the placing of the frames, Ian bored holes, everybody held frames while they were mounted.
The opening, on time, was a good night with readings of poetry facilitated by Jim thrusting into unsuspecting hands 'Something to Say, A Scottish LGBT Archive' and saying 'read something'.
Reaction to the Glasgow LGBT exhibition has been very positive and comments show appreciation of the bringing back of many happy memories and good times from the past. It is a living archive exhibition and one to which you all can contribute to in the future, with the drama project with the 7:84 Scotland Theatre Company and the oral history project which is just starting.
Comments from Visitors to the Exhibition
"Excellent preparation. Informative, well planned & colourful."
"I finally get to see how I got my rights I have today. It's so well done."
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